PITTSBURGH. (KFSN) --Stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT uses high doses of focused radiation at different angles to precisely target cancer cells while leaving other critical tissues unharmed. Doctors have used SBRT to treat a variety of cancers, but a new study shows it may make a huge difference in patients with tough-to-treat liver cancer.
Naomi Howard is driven to serve others- volunteering alongside her husband, John, on the food line at a men's shelter.
She also loves to travel. Last year she was literally on top of the world.
"We stood on the Arctic Ocean," Howard told Ivanhoe.
But over the past seven years, Naomi has had times that might have felt like rock-bottom, starting when she discovered a lump in her breast.
"I thought the answer would be get it checked in a couple of weeks," said Howard. " It wasn't. It was you need to get this checked now. This is serious."
Howard had stage four breast cancer. It had already spread to her liver and was inoperable there.
She started chemo, and a highly focused form of radiation called SBRT.
Dr. Alexander Kirichenko, a radiation oncologist for Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh told Ivanhoe, "When we breathe, everything actually moves inside our body and so does the tumor."
With SBRT, the radiation is adjusted to the tumor motion and given in higher doses for just a few sessions. Over a two year period, Dr. Kirichenko found it controlled the growth of 96 percent of the primary liver tumors, and 94 percent of cancers that had spread to the organ, like Howard's.
"She did very well," said Dr. Jane Raymond, a medical oncologist for Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh. "Her last scan showed no evidence of disease."
"Little did I know that this treatment which compared to full out surgery, was very easy and would be my ticket," Howard explained.
Meaning more time with the people who matter most.
Howard continues chemotherapy treatments every three weeks to keep the cancer at bay. Dr. Kirichenko said the SBRT is also a bridge for those patients who need a liver transplant. While surgery is still the gold standard, Dr. Kirichenko said more than eighty percent of patients with liver cancer are not eligible for surgery.
For more information on this report, please contact:
Allegheny Health Network